...comes out as straight
Credit: Phil Konstantin
Piazza has the
on all those gay rumors
By MAURY ALLEN
plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York
does not mention the fact that he was the Major Leagues
first African American in the 20th century.
Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey stood up at his resignation
press conference and announced, I am a gay American.
Sometimes we get too little information. Sometimes we get too
Mike Piazza retired last week as one of the games greatest
catchers and surely will be a Hall of Famer with his .308 lifetime
average over 16 seasons with 427 home runs.
I hope they put on his plaque, Im a heterosexual
Piazza, the discovery of Tommy Lasorda, a boyhood pal of Piazzas
father, Vince, in their hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania
and the ball players godfather, is the only announced heterosexual
in baseball history.
Babe Ruth never had to announce that nor Joe DiMaggio, Mickey
Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Greenberg, Stan Musial or Bob Feller.
Nobody else ever did in the games history.
After Piazza came to New York and led the Mets to a pennant in
2000, he was hounded by newspaper rumors and press box gossip
that the handsome, unmarried slugging catcher was a homosexual.
Nobody ever wrote publicly, Mike Piazza is gay. That
could cost money if it was proven in a court of law to be untrue.
How any lawyer could prove that one way or another is beyond
me. Maybe there have to be courtroom demonstrations.
My old newspaper, The New York Post, is gossip central
with its popular Page Six which can appear in the newspaper on
any published page from 6 to 60. Go figure that.
The paper ran an item in 2003 suggesting Piazza was a close pal
of local ABC weatherman Sam Champion, an out of the closet gay.
It never used the catchers name in the gossipy item. He
was simply identified as a handsome, unmarried New York baseball
superstar, Piazza being the only player to fit into that category.
Rumors swirled in the press, on the local sports television segments,
in the stands at Shea among the fans and even among his supportive
Finally it happened. The strangest recent press conference in
American baseball history.
Im not gay, Piazza announced. Im
It was the strangest press conference in baseball history since
Jimmy Piersall announced, Im not insane.
Piersall, a flaky Boston outfielder who had spent time in several
mental institutions, showed off a medical card signed by his
doctor, revealing he had passed all the tests for sanity. The
fact that he hit his 100th career homer as a member of the New
York Mets in 1962 and ran the bases backwards had nothing to
do with it.
Jerry Seinfeld had supposedly put the gay descriptions behind
all of us when he had an episode about gays and all his lead
characters, including himself, would always say about being gay,
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
So Piazza, now a public heterosexual, continued his career with
the Mets before playing out his option. He ended his playing
days last year with the Oakland As as an injured DH.
His career had an amazing start. He was once tutored in his backyard
by Ted Williams when Piazza was only 12. He was a light-hitting
first baseman at Miami Dade College in Florida. With Lasordas
insistence, the Dodgers drafted him in the 62nd round as number
1,390 in the selection group, mostly as a favor to their skipper.
Lasorda said after the 1988 draft, If he hits .240 as a
first baseman theyll probably cut him. If he hits .240
as a catcher they will keep him. Piazza went to winter
ball after he was drafted and leaned how to catch.
He never became an outstanding receiver but he was a marvelous
hitter from the start, winning Rookie of the Year honors for
Los Angeles and hitting 396 homers as a catcher, topping the
home run marks of Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra,
all Hall of Famers.
Piazza got his most attention in 2000 when Roger Clemens, with
or without the help of steroids, hit him in the head in an inter
league game. The resulting concussion not only impacted on the
rest of Piazzas career, it created an antagonistic environment
around the Mets and Yankees for each other. Of course they met
in the Series.
Piazza faced Clemens, hit a foul ball and broke his bat. Clemens
picked up the top half of the splintered bat and hurled it at
Clemens later explained, I thought it was the ball.
Piazza played out his option with the Mets and signed with San
Diego. He played two seasons there and a final year with Oakland.
On January 29, 2005, Piazza married Playboy Playmate Alicia Rickter.
One newspaper photo of the handsome guy with his gorgeous wife
ended the gay rumors. On February 5, 2007, Nicoletta Veronica
Piazza was born to the happy couple.
On July 31, 2013 Mike Piazza will be standing at his Hall of
Fame induction in Cooperstown before 60 living Hall of Famers
and 10,000 fans. I expect him to announce, I am a very
gay heterosexual American Hall of Famer.
©2008 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001
by Jim Hummel. This column first posted May 26, 2008.
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